A Chicago computer engineer and naturalized citizen from Iraq was charged with using social media to recruit operatives for ISIS, encourage others to carry out terrorists attack and spread propaganda to support violent jihad.
Ashraf Al Safoo, 34, an employed computer engineer who moved to Chicago in 2008, faces a count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. He holds a master’s degree in computer science and was working in the IT department of a web development company at the time of his arrest.
Prosecutors allege Al Safoo was an active member of the Khattab Media Foundation, an organization with a “sworn bayat, or an oath of allegiance, to ISIS.”
According to an affidavit, prosecutors say:
“Al-Safoo and the [co-conspirators] were working at the direction of and in cooperation with ISIS and ISIS’ media office, created and disseminated ISIS propaganda, recruited for ISIS, encouraged individuals to carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS, and supported violent jihad on behalf of ISIS and ISIS’ media office.”
An undercover agent was able to join a Khattab discussion group. It was there that an enormous cache of propaganda materials for ISIS was found, including 1,000 pages of communications between the group dating back a year.
One item created by Khattab was an animated video made in December 2017 called “Our gifts are ready.” The video begins with families gathered around a Christmas tree in front of a Walt Disney-like castle. It then cuts to a clip of President Donald Trump saying, “You have to fight fire…” The scene immediately cuts to bombs (ostensibly in Syria) of dead and injured children being pulled from rubble.
According to the affidavit, at the end, “The video cuts to all black with the word ‘Now listen you dogs of hell. This is a message and more are going to follow. This is just the beginning. Our gifts are now ready.’ The video shows a present under the Christmas tree that contains a bomb with a timer ticking down before cutting to a news clip of a mass shooting taking place.”